Crestwood Civil Service Board to investigate police pay raises

Probe needed to determine if code broken, Duchild says


While Crestwood aldermen last week tabled a request to rescind 10 Police Department pay raises that went into effect May 15 before the board approved them in a July 8 closed session, the city’s Civil Service Board has voted to investigate whether those pay increases violated any city laws.

The Civil Service Board voted 3-0 Aug. 28 to conduct a private investigation of the legitimacy of these pay raises and the chain of events that led up to them. The confidential findings of that investigation would be delivered to City Administrator Jim Eckrich and aldermen as it involves the investigation of city employees.

Conversely, the Board of Aldermen on a voice vote tabled Ward 4 Alderman Steve Nieder’s motion on Aug. 26 to rescind the 10 pay increases in question. Only Nieder voted “no” to tabling the issue.

Nieder’s original motion to rescind the pay raises was seconded by Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel, who publicly revealed at a July 8 board meeting that 15 Police Department employees had received raises since May.

Documentation provided by the city’s Finance Department shows that 10 police employees received salary increases collectively totaling $12,732 on May 15 — two days after Police Chief Michael Paillou made a presentation to aldermen during a May 13 closed session.

Paillou’s presentation involved a restructuring of the Police Department that included promotions and pay raises to be utilized through funds saved from the midyear retirement of former Capt. Rick Downs and two resignations.

Additionally, five officers received salary increases through promotions collectively totaling $23,303 on June 1.

Besides pay increases through those five promotions, Paillou has said that raises for 10 other department employees were needed.

He said five employees were awarded pay raises because they were being paid less than other department employees who had less seniority. The chief also said that five additional employee raises were needed to bring their initial starting salary up to the city’s pay-plan level of 90 percent of average pay. Paillou said each officer had started at 88 percent of average pay.

Because of Downs’ retirement and the two resignations, the total restructuring of the Police Department even after pay raises were approved resulted in a department-budget savings of $76,980 in salary and benefits. But if the city had not issued $36,035 in pay increases, that savings would have jumped from $76,980 in salary and benefits to $113,015.

Civil Service Board Chairwoman Martha Duchild has said that even though the pay increases awarded through promotions seem to be justified in the civil-service code, she questions whether the 10 mid-year salary increases without promotions followed that code as well as the city’s pay plan.

Additionally, Duchild and aldermen have raised questions of whether aldermen were permitted to approve the raises in closed session and whether City Attorney Robert Golterman has offered proper legal advice concerning these raises.

While Nieder said at the board’s Aug. 12 meeting that the civil-service code only allows midyear salary increases through demotion, promotion, annual merit review or emergency appointments, Golterman contended last week that those were only “examples” and not the rule.

“The board clearly had the authority and always will have the authority to increase salaries of employees,” Golterman said to Nieder. “The civil-service rules that you referred to, the four categories, are simply examples of circumstances that could warrant increases in pay or decreases in pay depending on the circumstances. That in no way would exhaust the powers or the authority of this Board of Aldermen at any time to decide the increase of salaries of employees.

“So your assertion that the civil-service rules contain the only circumstances and the only authority under which salaries can be increased is flat-out wrong.”

But Duchild told fellow Civil Service Board members Aug. 28 that she believes the civil-service code may have been broken and an investigation is needed.

“It started May 13, 2008, where in a closed session with the Board of Alder-men, the police chief presented to the Board of Aldermen his reorganization of the Police Department,” Duchild said. “In his presentation, he highlighted the retirement of one employee, the resignations of two others and the resulting promotions of five employees. Emphasis was placed on the five promotions and the general cost savings to the department. Detailed information on individual salary changes was not discussed. Because all the changes were accomplished within the budget, it was presented to the board as a courtesy … since no vote to approve the changes was taken during the meeting. And it’s not known whether consideration at this time was given to the provisions of the pay plan before the 10 salary increases were included in the reorganization, whether or not they were authorized.

“On July 8 of 2008, after making before-and-after salary comparisons for the Police Department, an alderman indicated at the July 8 Board of Aldermen meeting that in addition to the salary increases for the five promoted employees, an additional 10 employees received pay increases. At this meeting, the police chief confirmed that the salary adjustments were made and that they represented an attempt to correct previous mistakes. When asked directly whether midyear salary adjustments were provided for in the pay plan, the city attorney responded that he was unaware of the 10 salary increases and would need to discuss them with the police chief before he could provide an opinion.

“The board then adjourned to a closed session, where a motion was made to approve the previously implemented salary increases, which included the five promotions and the 10 salary adjustments. The vote took place despite the fact that the city attorney had yet to render an opinion regarding whether these increases were provided for in the pay plan.

“Then on Aug. 26, 2008, during a Board of Aldermen meeting, the city attorney made the comment that the provisions for salary changes listed in the pay plan were merely examples and, although it is not included in the pay plan, the Board of Aldermen could also vote to make salary changes for employees in addition to those approved in the annual budget. If we accept the city attorney’s opinion, then the is-sue is raised about whether and when those 10 salary increases were legitimate since it appears they were implemented before the board voted on them.

“At each step in this unfolding situation, questions were either left unasked or unanswered and decisions appear to have been made out of sequence, which has resulted in confusion over the legitimacy of these 10 pay increases,” Duchild said.